Updated on 03.13.07

Nine Financial Reasons For Getting Involved In Your Local Community

Trent Hamm

Over the last few years (especially since reading The Conscience of a Conservative), I’ve slowly been getting more and more involved in local community events, including local politics. For many people, this seems incredibly boring: I go to city council meetings, school board meetings, and all sorts of other community events. To me, though, it reaps real financial dividends in a number of ways beyond the altruistic “helping the community” attitude.

Here are nine ways I’ve found that getting involved in my local community has directly or indirectly put cash in my pocket.

I have had tons of opportunity to promote my consulting business. I have a consulting business on the side where I set up and fix computer and home networking systems for people. Attending local events has given me countless opportunities to meet lots of people in the community, give them my business card, and build a potential future client.

I influence local policy, which can save me money. Take, for instance, policies involving sidewalk maintenance. The city council might quietly pass a law requiring that all sidewalks be made level and of the same material, while I have a brick section in front of my home (to use an example). Thus, by objecting and suggesting that the material part be stricken, a bunch of money can be saved.

I meet people who may have interesting ideas. Fully a quarter of the entries here of late have come from overhearing interesting discussions between other community members.

I have tons of free entertainment. Between council meetings and other community events, I rarely pay a dime for entertainment of any kind any more (aside from cable and internet, I suppose).

I get tons of free food. There are dinners of all kinds going on throughout the place I live in on a very regular basis. I am constantly invited to dinners of all kinds for various community groups, and very rarely is there any cost. When there is cost, it’s usually a freewill donation, and I don’t mind dropping a Hamilton in a jar for a good cause on occasion.

I get other nice perks. Because of my involvement, I’ve been offered membership in various groups, which comes with great perks such as use of community buildings, equipment I can borrow for free, and so forth.

I make connections that can help in the future. I basically have two standing job offers in my community if I were to ever take them – I probably won’t, but you never know.

I expand the social circle not only for myself, but for my family. I already know the parents of at least some of my child’s peer group, even though the children do not know each other yet (in a few instances they do, but not regularly). This makes it easier to determine which parents may be good social partners in the future when we have children the same age who become friends, thus saving on babysitting fees, for example.

I can help people, and that help comes back around. I’ve been involved with several community events to benefit specific people in need, and I now know that if I were ever in a perilous situation, the community would reach out to me as well.

In short, community involvement is one of the most valuable things that you can do with your time.

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  1. Brett says:

    Excellent post, Trent. I think its a shame fewer and fewer people are active in their community. The other day I went to talk to a prominent attorney here in town. He talked about the key to his success was being involved in his community. He mentioned several of the reasons you have mentioned. I need to start getting more involved.

  2. Marta says:

    Great idea. My civics teacher had us attend city council meetings for assignments. As boring as they were, I think those meetings were where I learned some of the most important lessons about people, networking and how valuable local political knowledge is.
    I’ll follow your lead and get involved again!

  3. Rebecca says:

    This is great. I love your blog, but I’ve recently noticed that you never speak of philanthropy. Why is this? To me, philanthropy is an intregal part of finances… could you perhaps expand upon “getting involved in your local community” with a series on philanthropy?

  4. Harold Sandberg says:

    How do you start a “blog” business?
    How do you get paid and from whom?

  5. Monica says:

    The real reason to get involved in your local community is not to save money, but because it’s the right thing to do. (Sometimes being community-minded will even cost you money, like when you shop in a local family-owned store rather than a big box.) But I think it’s worthwhile to support your community, to participate in civic affairs, to write letters to officials/organizations, to be in community groups, to get to know your community by walking and cycling around, and to just generally be an actual part of the community rather than treating it as just the place you go to sleep at night. Do your part to make your town/city a good place.

  6. Naomi Dunford says:

    Hi Trent,

    I love your site and I REALLY love this post. I sent you a digg and I hope you write more posts like this one.

  7. Kim Bentz says:

    Probably the single-most successful man I know, and the most financially savvy, is also hugely involved in the community in ways you suggested. This has paid off in many ways, only some of them financial.

    He is invited to be part of groups that are civic-minded, yes, but they are great fun as well. Consider his inclusion into private groups that have speakers such as General Swartzkopf, or groups of guys that put together the greatest weeklong camping/riding/private rodeo that probably exists anywhere on the planet.

    Being people and money savvy, he doesn’t do these things for financial gain or to wield power, but he is not blind to those benefits. His consistent involvement has put him on the boards of many groups that pursue things he is interested in, be it business, civic service, local government, and his personal hobbies and political leanings.

    He is widely respected and often sought after for interviews and quotes in local and national publications, which has had a positive effect on his business. Can he quantify the financial gain of this or that group? Probably. Most importantly, he has developed lifelong friendships with people who share a similar outlook on life and similar interests.

    I respect and honor him for doing his part to make our local area a better and more prosperous place to live.

    For me, such involvement includes heavy involvement in my local church. Do I gain financially? I don’t know or care. I am enriched in so many ways by being an active member of my church. I have deep friendships, I am able to help them carry the load when times are tough. We do community service together, and share the important moments of life together, from weddings and baby showers to funerals.

    I think it was Guiliani who said, “Weddings optional, funerals manditory.” And I agree. When you are part of your community, never forget to show up for the tough stuff. Don’t forget to be there when they are raising funds for a seriously injured or sick child, don’t miss the funerals. People may not remember you there for the parties, but you will show you can be counted on when you are there when times are rough.

    In addition to the areas Trent mentioned, never forget to take part in charitable organizations. Pick the areas you are most passionate about, because there you will be the most effective and will meet people of like mind. There may be some gain in contacts and influence, but you will know you are doing good, which provides it’s own reward.

  8. Minimum Wage says:

    Isn’t this pretty much a “homeownery” sort of activity?

    I used to go to a lot of meetings (in a previous location) for what I consider “defensive” purposes. The city was trying (and succeeding over a period of years) to regulate and drive the rentals out of town, and I saw my marginal economic position and housing choice at risk. I wasn’t trying to get the city to do something, I was trying to get the city to NOT do things.

    There was a huge economic and social gulf between the homeowners who controlled the whole ball of wax, and the renters who were gradually being driven out.

  9. Chris says:

    I like 95% of your post, and absolutely agree that people should get involved in their local community (and am in the process of getting nominated to a county board myself).

    However, I have to take very strong umbrage to the example of influence one can bear to save money by being involved in local policy. The point of being a part of the community, especially anything impacting budget, isn’t to save yourself money. It is to help better the community.

    It’s the example you used that is poor. If it were in the best interests of the community at large to have passed the sidewalk materials part of that item, then you did a disservice to your neighbors and yourself to “save some money”.

    Thankfully you aren’t yet an elected official, or else this would have been a rather serious breach of ethics.

  10. Marilyn says:

    Hey Trent

    Very interesting perspective. I had never considered the value of making community connections in that way. And to everyone who thinks Trent may shallow for highlighting the financial perks to being involved in civic activities, might I point out that this is a blog about money. Doing something that is of value can brings value back to you- maybe even in the form of money. *Gasp!*

    Rock on, Trent. Love the blog.

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